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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Trump Supports Roy Moore As More Republicans Break With Him; Trump Goes On Tirade Slams UCLA Player's Dad: "Ungrateful Fool"; GOP Rep Apologizes After Explicit Photo Is Posted Online. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired November 22, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:02] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much for watching. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families as well. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" tonight with Poppy Harlow starts right now.
POPPY HARLOW, OUTFRONT HOST: OutFront next, President Trump stands alone. More top Republicans defying the President coming forward to save Roy Moore isn't fit to hold office.
Plus, Trump's Twitter attack on the father of a UCLA basketball player falling (ph) at a low point even for this Tweeter in Chief. And accusations from counselor Kellyanne Conway may have broken federal law. Let's go OutFront.
Good evening, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in tonight for Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight, standing up to Trump, more Republicans going against the President, coming out today to say that Roy Moore is not fit to serve in the Senate one day after the President staunchly defended Moore. Three more Republican congressmen disagreeing with Trump's assessment that any Republican even when accused in child molestation is better than a Democrat. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LEONARD LANCE (R), NEW JERSEY: I believe the women and I do not think he should be elected to the United State Senate.
REP. FRANCES ROONEY (R), FLORIDA: I watched the clip the other morning about one of the ladies who came forward and how she's agonized over many years about what to do about it. And it seems to be that most everybody that's heard those things that has more experience in this kind of thing than me seems to line up unanimously that this guy is a bad guy.
REP. SCOTT TAYLOR (R), VIRGINIA: I saw the man give his interview. Me personally, I don't think it was sufficient enough. I certainly don't feel comfortable with his explanation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Also today, Arizona's Republican Governor, Doug Ducey with more harsh words for Roy Moore.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. DOUG DUCEY (R), ARIZONA: This was bad behavior 40 years ago. This is bad behavior today. If I was in the private sector, I'd terminate this guy. I'd like to see a different candidate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: And despite the President stand, officials at the RNC and the National Republican Senatorial Committee say they are not reversing course on Moore. They are not restoring funding to his campaign. All of these comes less than 24 hours after President Trump broke his silence for a week about Moore.
His only defense of Moore was to repeat at least 10 times that Moore denies the allegations. In fact, a GOP source close to the White House tells CNN that Trump doubts Moore's accusers and views the accusations as similar to what he faced during the presidential campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can tell you one thing for sure. We don't need a liberal person in there, a Democrat. Jones, I've looked at his record. It's terrible on crime. It's terrible on the border. It's terrible in the military.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Our Martin Savidge is OutFront tonight in Birmingham, Alabama. And Martin, the President support of Moore may not be swinging the establishment Republicans. But that's not the question that matters. The question that matter is how is this playing with voters where you are in Alabama?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's exactly the question. Hello Poppy. You know, it's been kind of a good news, bad news 24 hours for the Roy Moore campaign. I tell you about the bad news in a moment. The good news, of course, that kind of backhanded endorsement from the President, but you're absolutely right. How is it going over here? That's what we wanted to find out.
ROY MOORE, ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: I believe in the Second Amendment.
SAVIDGE (voice-over): Roy Moore thanking President Trump for his support. In an e-mail to his supporters, Moore said, "We are thankful that his words before leaving the White House to celebrate Thanksgiving were the strong words of support for Roy Moore." Trump effectively backed Moore by essentially telling Alabama voters not to vote for the other guy, Democrat Doug Jones.
TRUMP: I can tell you one thing for sure, we don't need a liberal person in there, a Democrat. SAVIDGE (voice-over): But in Alabama, it's not clear if the President's tacit endorsement will change voter minds or the outcome of a white hot Senate race. It's a question trending on conservative talk radio like Talk 99.5 in Birmingham.
RICHARD DIXON, BIRMINGHAM CONSERVATIVE RADIO HOST: Does Donald Trump's endorsement do anything for you at all? Does it make any difference in your world?
SAVIDGE (voice-over): But judging by callers' reactions, most already have made up their minds.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm about as far right as you can get, like extreme.
SAVIDGE (voice-over): Alabama is one of the reddest states in the country. Conservative voters may have concerned about the allegations of sexual impropriety against Moore, but voting for Democrat Doug Jones who is pro-choice in a decidedly pro-life state is an even greater moral conflict.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wouldn't vote for the baby killer for hell nor high water. I don't believe in murdering children.
SAVIDGE (voice-over): Show host Richard Dixon thinks Trump's words will help Moore, some.
DIXON: Roy Moore supporters who weren't all excited about voting for Roy Moore once this came out. Even a weak endorsement from Donald Trump might get those people excited. I mean, Alabama is very much Trump country.
SAVIDGE (voice-over): But no one here seems to think that Trump's backing is any kind of game changer, not in a state where voters take pride in putting a thumb in the eye of the establishment, even the Republican establishment.
[19:05:09] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even if all of these allegations were proven definitively to be positive, I would still vote for him over Doug Jones.
DIXON: What we're getting nationally is, Alabamians would vote for a pedophile over a liberal Democrat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In this circumstance, yes.
SAVIDGE: Now let's get to the bad news coming out of the Roy Moore campaign and that is the Communications Director, that's John Rodgers, suddenly called it quits. The campaign is trying to downplay this. They're saying this was a decision actually reached last Friday. However, they also say it's because of the intense media scrutiny that they just felt they need a more experienced hand in the communications job. But to change a communications director this close to election raises a lot of eyebrows, Poppy. HARLOW: It does indeed. Martin Savidge, we appreciate the reporting in Birmingham. Thank you.
OutFront with us, April Ryan, White House Correspondent for American Urban Radio Network, Tom Bates, member of the Editorial Board for Alabama's largest paper AL.com. They just wrote an editorial titled, Our View: Alabama Voters Must Reject Roy Moore, We Endorse Doug Jones for U.S. Senate. And Kirsten Powers, USA Today columnist joins us.
So Tom, let me begin with you given your position there in Alabama. What do you think after seeing Martin's piece and from all the folks you talk to. Do voters care what Trump thinks about Moore, or do those other Republicans who spoke out against Moore carry more weight?
TOM BATES, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER, AL.COM: I think Martin did a good job of capturing where we are now. Trump's statement yesterday I think will give some voters cover to vote for Roy Moore. But right now both candidates are fiercely focused on a small segment of Republicans who believe the allegations and are really struggling, they're struggling between party loyalty and moral values.
If it goes party lines, of course, more wins. If it goes values, he may not necessarily win. I don't think his platform really reflects what the majority of folks in Alabama think at this point.
HARLOW: You know, Kirsten, we learned in the presidential election in 2016 voters are not always honest when it comes to what they tell pollsters. We saw the Trump effect right after that Access Hollywood tape dropped in October. Voters didn't want to admit that they were going to vote for the President but went on to do so.
The latest poll we have out of Alabama shows the Democrat, Doug Jones, is up by eight points. The Moore campaign says don't believe that for a second. Here's the chief campaign strategist, Dean Young.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEAN YOUNG, ROY MOORE'S CHIEF POLITICAL STRATEGIST: Fox News puts out their fake polls, and everybody else can, too. But he's still winning, and he's never been losing, because the people of Alabama don't go for what you all are trying to sell.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: OK, that's his take. But now that the President has weighed in with such staunch support of Roy Moore, does that give other Republicans cover to say how they really feel?
KIRSTEN POWERS, COLUMNIST, USA TODAY: Well first, I'm going to say it's a little hard to believe an eight-point lead by a Democrat. Is that what you said? You said the Democrat is up eight?
POWERS: Yes. I mean, that's very hard to believe, even in these circumstances. And Roy Moore already wasn't a particularly strong candidate prior to this happening. I think he was up about six points prior to this news breaking which is in a state that Trump won by almost 30 points.
So I think -- but at a minimum, the polls seem to be neck and neck. And the other thing is that they have definitely eroded since -- his support has eroded since the news broke. And so it's being factored in. Now does Trump make a difference? It certainly doesn't hurt him.
I think it probably helps him but we need to remember the primary where Republican voters chose to ignore what Trump had to say and went with Roy Moore in the first place. So, you know, I think that it helps him marginally. I don't think it's necessarily a game changer.
HARLOW: And let's remind people, April, of what the President said in his defense of Moore just yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Well, he denies it. Look, he denies it. He totally denies it. He says it didn't happen. He said 40 years ago this did not happen.
Let me just tell you, Roy Moore denies it. That's all I can say. He denies it. And by the way, he totally denies it. Well, he denies. I mean, Roy Moore denies it. And by the way, he gives a total denial. He totally denies it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
APRIL RYAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: Yes.
HARLOW: In the same breath, I should note, April, that he also said women are special and this is an opportunity time for women in this country.
HARLOW: But you have the RNC, you have the National Republican Senatorial Committee saying we're holding our ground (ph), not reversing course, not restoring funding to the Roy Moore campaign. What does that tell you?
RYAN: Right. It says a lot. It says a lot. When the President looks for loyalty and unity, when he's looking for Republicans to stand by him on Capitol Hill and also at the RNC, and the RNC has broken ranks by not giving funding and support to Roy Moore.
People on the Hill, you have Senate and House leaders who have said, look, you know, there's credible evidence about this. You even have Senate Leader Mitch McConnell talking about, look, we're going to find a way to get him out if he wins.
[19:10:10] This is -- And I listened to the former head of the RNC, Michael Steele, saying this is not about the Republican Party and it's not about the women. You know, what does this boil down to, and we're going to wait to find out to see if the President next week -- you know, he's going to give us word next week -- if he's going to campaign for Roy Moore.
RYAN: This is beyond politics. This is beyond politics.
HARLOW: I mean, Tom, I'm old enough to remember when the President wanted Luther Strange to win this race, right? That was like a few weeks ago. So him out campaigning with Roy Moore knowing what we know now would be quite an optics issue potentially for this President. But when it comes down to it, this backs to the question about the polling here. Do you believe there is that sort of secret Moore vote in Alabama?
BATES: Yes. I do think there were some in the earlier polls that were going to vote for Roy Moore and perhaps didn't feel comfortable saying it.
BATES: I think this race right now is super tight. And the fact that it is is actually newsworthy in and of itself. But it's going to come down to just really a handful of folks and I actually don't think the national news and the pundits and others in D.C. are going to affect the race very much. So I think a lot of decisions are going to be made over Thanksgiving, and I think again there's a handful of folks really struggling with this party loyalty --
BATES: -- versus, you know, voting for somebody who they really feel is unfit.
HARLOW: And Kirsten, very quickly before we go. Ivanka Trump, you know, touts herself as a champion for women, just wrote a book on this, said about Roy Moore, "There's a special place in hell for people who prey on children." Does she now need to say Moore given that her father has been defending Roy Moore?
POWERS: I mean, she could does not going to make any difference. We've seen this before where she defers from her father on issues and it doesn't really seem to move him that much, you know, especially on this kinds of issues. I think he's kind of, you know, dug in to making his own political decisions.
And Roy Moore is -- remember, I man, he regretted it immediately that he hadn't endorsed Roy Moore. Roy Moore was always Moore (ph) his kind of person than Luther Strange and he kind of went along with the establishment and he regretted it.
HARLOW: Thank you all very much. Have a great Thanksgiving. I appreciate it.
OutFront next, President Trump goes one-on-one with the father of a UCLA basketball player. Does the President's latest Twitter attack hit a new low?
And breaking news allegations of abusive behavior against Congressman John Conyers. A woman once who worked for him on the Hill said she was called into his office only to find him in his underwear, she is my guest. And Kellyanne Conway weighed in on the Alabama Senate race.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: Doug Jones in Alabama, folks, don't be fooled. He'll be a vote against tax cuts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Did she break the law by saying that, ahead.
[19:16:46] HARLOW: New tonight, President Trump refusing to let go of his feud with LaVar Ball, the father of the UCLA basketball players freed from China after being arrested for shoplifting. The President tweeting today, "It wasn't the White House, it wasn't the State Department, it wasn't father LaVar's so-called people on the ground in China that got his son out of a long-term prison sentence. It was me. Too bad. LaVar is just a poor man's version of Don King, but without the hair. Just think, LaVar, you could have spent the next five to 10 years during Thanksgiving with your son in China but no NBA contract to support you. But remember LaVar, shoplifting is not a little thing. It's a really big deal, especially in China. Ungrateful fool."
Now this Twitter rant comes after Ball on CNN showed a lack of appreciation for the President's role in his son's release.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAVAR BALL, FATHER OF UCLA BASKTEBALL PLAYER LIANGELO BALL: If he said he help us good for his mind, I mean, but why he even got to say -- if you help you shouldn't have to say anything. If you help you shouldn't have -- if I help somebody I don't walk around saying, you know, I helped you now.
I would say thank you if he would have put him on his plane and took him home. If I was going to thank somebody, I'd probably thank President Xi.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: All right. Our Jeff Zeleny is OutFront. And Jeff, the President chose to engage in this fight on Twitter early this morning, 5:30 in the morning, two and a half hours before he took to twitter to address the navy plane crash in which three Americans are still missing. Why?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, he did. It was actually about 90 minutes before sunrise here when that first tweet came out about 5:25 against LaVar Ball going after that. And then of course those three words there in all caps I think spoke volumes. It was me.
The President trying to seek credit for this of course, but it's also, Poppy, we've seen a pattern of this throughout, you know, most of the last year. The President is also trying to change the subject, trying to, you know, produce a distraction, trying to set the tone of the day.
One thing he did not talk about at all today was Roy Moore, the Alabama Senate race which of course was in the news. The President wanted to revive those old grievances and drive the conversation. But it was a bit odd for him to be tweeting like this when there was a national security event happening. It's not every morning that there's a plane crash that happens in Okinawa --
ZELENY: -- in the Pacific Ocean while the President is waking up. So that was a bit odd. But he was briefed on it around 8:00 or so this morning we were told and then he tweeted about that shortly afterward.
But Poppy, what I'm struck by here is the President wants to be in the conversation. Other presidents, President Bush I covered, President Obama I covered, they enjoyed being on vacation. The White House went to great lengths today to say the President was not on vacation. He did spend five hours at his golf course here which is fine
No one would ever blame a president for doing that. But the White House would not even say he was playing golf. All we know he did today, Poppy, is sent out a lot of tweets, Poppy.
HARLOW: Indeed. Jeff Zeleny, thank you very much.
OutFront tonight, Ben Ferguson, host of "THE BEN FERGUSON SHOW" and former White House aide under the Clinton administration, Keith Boykin. Nice to have you both here.
And Ben, why? Why tweet about this again, 5:25 in the morning. I'm walking into work and this is what I'm reading and it's not until 8:00 a.m. that he tweets about the navy plane crash with these Americans on it. I don't understand. Help me.
[19:20:04] BEN FERGUSON, HOST OF "THE BEN FERGUSON SHOW": Well one, he wasn't briefed at 5:00 a.m. about the navy. As you just heard Jeff say --
HARLOW: He reads the news. We all do. We all do.
FERGUSON: -- he was briefed about it at 8:00 in the morning. I think it's appropriate for the President to wait until he's briefed to find out what actually went on when the plane crashed.
FERGUSON: The other thing is I don't know why people are so surprised. This is what Donald Trump is going to do with his Twitter. Whether you like it or not, he's going to be blunt. He's going to fight back. They've said that from the White House.
I don't know why anyone is surprised that the President decides to tweet about things like this. Is it my style? No. I wouldn't do it this way. Clearly the President believes this is what he should be doing. He did it through the entire campaign. But I think to imply that somehow he tweeted about this before the plane crash that somehow he wasn't prioritizing when he was briefed at 8:00 and the tweeted about that plane crash at 8:30, I think that's a little bit unfair.
HARLOW: So Keith, part of the President's tweet, let me read it, "Too bad, LaVar is just a poor man's version of Don King, but without the hair." There have been many who have asked especially over the last few days with this debate specifically, is there race at play? How do you see it?
KEITH BOYKIN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE AIDE UNDER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: Yes, there is race at play. It's clearly a part of a pattern the President has been engaged in for quite some time when he started in his campaign attacking Mexicans. He started his political ascendancy attacking Muslims. He started his political White House, if you will, with this whole sort of attack on Barack Obama for five and a half years, you know, questioning his birth certificate, not the White House but his involvement in politics I should say.
But, you know, this is part of what he's doing right now with the Haitians. He's going after the Haitians. He's going after LaVar Ball. He's going after Marshawn Lynch. He's going after Colin Kaepernick. He's going after Frederica Wilson. He's repeatedly attacking prominent African-American figures in order to distract attention from the other things he should be working on.
He's not focused on, as you mentioned before Poppy, he woke up at 5:30 in the morning, he wasn't talking about the U.S. navy aircraft in the Pacific. He wasn't talking about the -- Sergeant La David Johnson's body remains which were discovered. He wasn't talking about Sergeant La David Johnson's remains which was discovered in Niger.
He was not talking about the 50 percent of Puerto Ricans who don't have electricity. He's not talking about North Korea and nuclear missiles. He's not talking about the fact that he just endorsed a child molester essentially, child molester for the United States Senate. What he wants to talk about is racially divisive issues and that's troubling from the President of the United States.
HARLOW: Let me get back Ben.
FERGUSON: Let's just say I accept the premise for a moment that this is racially motivated. If the President's tweet was somehow racially motivated, then explain to me, Keith, why the President would use political capital while meeting on very serious issues with the President of China to then have influence on that leader to get three African-American basketball players out of prison from probably what would have been five to 10 years?
You can't say that the guy is being racist at one moment when he actually was sitting down with a president of a foreign country and getting three African-American basketball players -- if you're claiming it's about race, out of a country and keeping them out of jail. That's not racism, sir, as much as you want it to be about race.
HARLOW: Fair point, Keith?
BOYKIN: Yes, it is a fair point. I was one of the first people to congratulate or compliment the President when he announced that the three basketball players were coming home and he had done something to help them. I'm not completely sure that he did for the same reason --
FERGUSON: Don't say it's racism.
BOYKIN: -- like with LaVar Ball. No, let me finish this. I'm not sure that he actually did contribute to this at all but he says he did and the same way he says he had the largest inauguration in history which we know is not true. He always claiming credit for things that we don't know about.
I don't why the President was motivated to be engage in this. But I do know --
BOYKIN: Wait, wait, wait, wait. But wait, no, I do know that --
FERGUSON: Keith, Keith, you can't make up facts here.
BOYKIN: I do know -- I'm not making up facts. I don't know why --
FERGUSON: You are.
BOYKIN: -- to be engage but I do know that the President had a history of racism. I do know he's willing to believe Vladimir Putin --
FERGUSON: The race card gets old.
HARLOW: Then final word, guys.
BOYKIN: Before he's willing to believe --
HARLOW: We're tight on time. We're tight on time. Ben, final response to that.
FERGUSON: The race card gets old when you play it all the time while the President -- and it's been confirmed -- did get involved, did talk to the president of that country. And the fact is he helped three African-American basketball players keep out of prison for what would have been five to 10 years. If that's what racism looks like, you can call me or anybody else with this saying I did a racist every day of the week because that's not racism, sir. That's the President doing his job and you should actually call it that.
HARLOW: Gentlemen, thank you.
BOYKIN: Doing one good thing does not negate everything else that he did.
HARLOW: Thank you very much. It's an important debate and it will continue. We appreciate it.
OutFront next, breaking news, a former staffer claiming tonight that John Conyers mistreated her. She says she was summoned to the Democratic congressman's office only to find him in his underwear. She is my guest next.
[19:25:12] And massive migration of hurricane survivors from Puerto Rico to Florida, could this be a game changer in the next presidential election?
HARLOW: New tonight, the longest serving congressman from Texas apologizing after a sexually explicit photo of him was posted online. Republican Joe Barton who served 17 terms in Congress doesn't deny the photo is legitimate and says in part, "While separated from my second wife, prior to the divorce, I had sexual relationships with other mature adult women. Each was consensual. Those relationships have ended. I am sorry I did not use better judgment during those days. I am sorry that I let my constituents down."
Our Sunlen Serfaty is OutFront tonight. What does this mean for this political future?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, in the short term he says he's staying put. He is not resigning and that's according to the P.R. company who is helping him deal with the fallout from this. But to emphasize this just for a moment, this is a city member of Congress and even though he says this was from a consensual relationship, these are incredibly lewd photos out there on the internet of him which he does not deny are legitimate, as you said, so there certainly is a significant cloud hanging over him.
HARLOW: This also, Sunlen, comes amid growing questions about the fate of the Democratic Congressman John Conyers, the longest serving active member in all of Congress. Now another woman has come forward accusing him of sexual harassment in just like Conyers' own hometown paper, "The Detroit Free Press", a Democratic congressman is calling on him to resign.
What can you tell us?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. There is growing pressure on him tonight, Poppy. Congresswoman Kathleen Rice is becoming the first member of Congress to call for his resignation outright.
She says in a statement, quote, Representative Conyers should resign. I've reviewed the allegations against him and they're as credible as they are repulsive, whether it happened 40 years ago or last week, settlement or no settlement, Democrat or Republican, harassment is harassment, assault is assault. We all know credible allegations when we hear them and the same is true of hypocrisy.
And "The Detroit Free Press", which as you know is the congressman's hometown newspaper, was out with just a scathing editorial today, also calling on him to resign and specifically saying that they believe he attempted to bury these allegations of sexual harassment by paying off one of the accusers from his own office's budget -- Poppy.
HARLOW: All right. Sunlen, thank you for the reporting.
And breaking news, another woman coming forward with accusations tonight against Congressman Conyers. Melanie Sloan says she was harassed and verbally abused while working for Conyers in the mid '90s. She is the first former staffer to be named on the record with these allegations against him. He is denying any wrongdoing through his attorney.
Melanie Sloan is OUTFRONT with me tonight.
And thank you for being here. I know it is a difficult conversation to have. I do appreciate it.
Let's begin with this, what happened to you and when?
MELANIE SLOAN, SAYS REP. CONYERS HARASSED AND VERBALLY ABUSED HER: I worked for Congressman Conyers on the House Judiciary Committee staff as minority counsel from '95 to '98, 1995 to 1998. And while it was a great job, I was working on crime policy. I was very excited to be there. I had previously worked for House member -- then House member Chuck Schumer and I also worked on the Senate Judiciary Committee for Joe Biden. I was very happy to be in Congressman Conyers' Judiciary staff.
And overtime as I was there, he became increasingly abusive to me. There was one occasion specifically where I was organizing a field hearing for him in New York and he brought his toddler son and forced me to be behind the stage baby sitting his son during the entire hearing that was my hearing. There was another instance where he hauled me out of a meeting with a bunch of domestic violence advocates and started screaming at me at the top of his lungs. He fired me numerous times only to keep me.
He once started yelling at me for not wearing stockings and I responded, but you're not wearing socks. There was, of course, also the time where I walked into his office and he was in a shirt and underwear, and I just turned around immediately and left.
HARLOW: So, on that last note, you were, I believe, Melanie, summoned to his office, is that correct? He called you, asked you to come. You didn't just show up and he was in his underwear.
SLOAN: No, no --
HARLOW: He asked you to come? Is that correct?
SLOAN: Yes, somebody would have told me to come, that he was ready to talk to me --
SLOAN: -- and then he was just not dressed.
I do want to emphasize though the way it seemed to me at the time, I don't think -- I was not sexually harassed by Congressman Conyers. I was harassed by the congressman. I was verbally abused repeatedly and it was very unpleasant event to walk in on him in his office in his underwear, but it was a very short moment and I think it was more a question of him just not really caring that I was there and not being very concerned about what he was wearing.
HARLOW: Did you tell anyone about all of these instances?
SLOAN: I did, in fact, talk about all of these instances. I went to my supervisors. I was becoming increasingly upset about what was going on in the office. I was having a very hard time. It was emotionally very debilitating.
And I also spoke with somebody who worked for the then Minority Leader Richard Gephardt and I asked them to intervene and see if they could help me with Congressman Conyers. I also asked -- I did a lot of work with women's groups and I asked somebody from a leading women's group if she might be able to intervene with Congressman Conyers, and she told me that he was really great on their issues so the answer was no.
And then, eventually, I called a reporter that I knew that I had worked with on some policy issues and I tried talking about some of these things. And then he called some other people to confirm my -- some of the things that I said and another woman who worked for Congressman Conyers on the committee told him that he was mentally unstable. So, he then told me that he couldn't be sure I wasn't mentally unstable even though we had worked together for years and he wouldn't do anything with the story.
HARLOW: So, no one listened to you essentially is what you're saying?
SLOAN: No one listened to me.
[19:35:00] HARLOW: Let me get some responses and get you to react to them from Dick Gephardt, the former House minority leader at that time. "Washington Post" asked him about your claims. He said he doesn't recall you raising your concerns at all. He did go on to condemn any kind of abuse like this, but he doesn't remember yours.
Also the lawyer for Congressman Conyers just told us, Attorney Arnold Reed, just told us that you were in Conyers' office about a month ago and were, quote, laughing and cajoling with staff members. He doesn't mention the congressman specifically being there at the time. He also says, I'm not even sure why it's a story because the individual admits that my client doesn't harass her from a sexual perspective.
What's your response?
SLOAN: Well, a couple of things, I was over in the judiciary office a couple months ago, speaking to Judiciary Committee staff. That's certainly true. These are all instances that took place 20 years ago. I don't see whether my being in the Judiciary Committee office talking to staff what that would have to do at all with what happened with Congressman Conyers all those years ago.
I agree that it's not the same as the sexual harassment allegations that other staffers are making, but there were things in those allegations that I felt like I could confirm. For example, the baby sitting that I had been asked to engage in baby sitting. And I too have been asked to engage in baby sitting --
SLOAN: So I felt like it was important to say so.
Let me just say, I didn't come forward with this. Somebody from "The Washington post" called me, and at first I was only interested in talking about it on background and then I thought about it for a few hours yesterday afternoon and I thought, this is sort of exactly the problem. If people don't want to go on the record and in Washington I'm sure like in other industries but particularly here, loyalty is considered paramount and it's very disloyal to talk about the bad things that happened, particularly in Congress.
And I'm sure I'm far from the only woman who's had really bad experiences and I'm sure women have had much worse experiences than I did where people are so afraid to come forward and I feel like if people in the entertainment industry and the media industry can come forward, it's also important for people in government to also talk about their experiences on the record.
It's not really my shame. It's the congressman's. And I shouldn't be embarrassed about what he did.
HARLOW: Melanie, do you think that Congressman Conyers should resign?
SLOAN: You know, I have not thought about that. I definitely think Congressman Conyers should be held accountable for his conduct and particularly the sexual harassment allegations which I think are very serious. I think the kind of abuse I suffered from Congressman Conyers while not acceptable at all is not necessarily uncommon. I think there are other members of Congress who have behaved perhaps equally as badly to their staff, men and frankly women.
And nobody gets held accountable for their mistreatment of congressional staff and I think that we need to change the entire attitude and there needs to be a place for people to go and complain and actually be heard and have a possibility of some kind of repercussion which there were really none in my day. There was nothing I could do. I did everything I could think of and there was no way to fix it.
HARLOW: And thus the legislation put forth by Democratic Senator Kristen Gillibrand and Congresswoman Jackie Speier trying to change the system at the heart of it.
HARLOW: Thank you very much, Melania Sloan. We appreciate it.
SLOAN: Thank you.
HARLOW: OUTFRONT now, Democratic congressman of New York, Hakeem Jeffries. He sits on the House Judiciary Committee with Congressman Conyers.
You just heard what I heard from Melanie. What's your response?
REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, I think what Melanie has made clear is there's a system in Congress that's broken and needs to be remedied so people feel comfortable coming forward to report allegations of misconduct or concern or hostile work environment which Melanie appears to be describing without fear of retribution. That's an important lesson and I think we all can take away from this moment that we're confronting in America right now.
HARLOW: This is certainly a moment, we'll see what happens, though, right? What accountability there is.
Do you think Congressman Conyers -- you sit with him on the Judiciary, should he resign?
JEFFRIES: Well, I think the ethics process should proceed, the allegations against Congressman Conyers are clearly disturbing, disappointing, deeply troubling. The ethics investigation should be thorough, it should be swift, it should be comprehensive, and I think more important than anything else, it should respect the dignity of the women who are part of it so that they are not chilled in being reluctant to come forward down the road.
HARLOW: So, you're not saying at this point he should resign. But let me get your response to what your fellow Democrat in Congress, Gregory Meeks of New York, also told me this morning about what he thinks Conyers should do. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D), NEW YORK: If he defends himself and says there's nothing there that he could come back, but you can't, in my estimation, just in the scenario we're in, to be the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee at this time. I think that he should step down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:40:00] HARLOW: He says Conyers should step down as ranking member of the Judiciary Committee. Do you agree?
JEFFRIES: Well, it's going to be very tough for Congressman Conyers to proceed as ranking member moving forward. That's a decision that he's going to have to make.
HARLOW: But is that -- what do you think? I mean, you sit on that committee. This is your ranking member and your party. And I'm asking you, should he be leading that right now?
JEFFRIES: I think the process is going to have to take shape moving forward and hopefully will unfold in a swift manner so that we can put this behind --
HARLOW: Do you have faith he had lead the Judiciary Committee right now?
JEFFRIES: Well, you know, my view of it is that we're going to come back to Congress last week. The Congressional Black Caucus will meet. House Judiciary Committee Democrats will meet. The overall Democratic Caucus will meet and we should come to a collective decision and not make these decisions on a case-by-case basis.
We need an overall standard. Right now, the rules are such that if there's an ethics investigation that could be lodged, not in this instance but in others, by a political enemy, it should not necessarily trigger an automatic standing down of someone from the ranking member. But in this context with these disturbing allegations, you know, perhaps we need to go in a different direction.
HARLOW: So, given all that you've said about, you know, the accusations against this Democrat, what about Roy Moore? Should he be held to the same standard? Because he's not in the Senate yet. He's not there yet. We'll see if he wins.
So, he doesn't -- he's not open to an ethics investigation like Al Franken is going through, like John Conyers is going through. So, for Roy Moore, do you give him the same sort of latitude, if you will?
JEFFRIES: Well, the people of Alabama are going to make the decision. The allegations as I understand them involve child molestation and pedophilia.
JEFFRIES: Seems to me to be as serious as any allegations that could possibly be leveled against an individual, American, regardless of the industry, in this instance of someone who's trying to be part of an exclusive governing opportunity as a member of the United States Senate. I do think that both Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell are correct in saying that if he were to be elected by the people of Alabama, immediately, an ethics investigation needs to be convened to look into these very serious charges.
HARLOW: We appreciate you being with us.
JEFFRIES: Thank you, Poppy.
HARLOW: Thank you very much.
JEFFRIES: Happy Thanksgiving.
HARLOW: Happy Thanksgiving to you as well. OUTFRONT next, Kellyanne Conway facing accusations she broke the law
when she spoke out about the Alabama election. Could one of the president's closest confidantes get fired?
Nearly 200,000 Puerto Ricans devastated by Hurricane Maria now living in Florida. What could that mean for that state politically? Could they swing it in Democrats' favor? Ahead.
[19:46:09] HARLOW: Tonight, Kellyanne Conway facing accusations that she broke the law for weighing in on the Alabama Senate race. A top former ethics official, Walter Shaub, says Conway violated the law that prohibits most federal employees from publicly endorsing a candidate or using their official position to weigh in on the election. It's called the Hatch Act. Here's what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: Doug Jones in Alabama, folks, don't be tooled. He'll be a vote against tax cuts. He's weak on crime, weak on borders. He's strong on raising your taxes. He's terrible for property owners.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, vote Roy Moore?
CONWAY: I'm telling you that we want the votes in the Senate to get this tax -- this tax bill through.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Shaub had filed a complaint with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel to investigate this.
Former White House ethics lawyer, Richard Painter, is OUTFRONT with me tonight.
And, Richard, what do you think? I mean, you know this law, it dates back to 1939. Did she break it?
RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER: Oh yes, this is a slam dunk violation of the Hatch Act. The Hatch Act applies to every executive branch employee other than the president and the vice president. You are prohibited from in your official capacity using your official title endorsing a candidate or opposing a candidate in a partisan election.
She's standing there on the White House lawn in front of the White House. She's obviously giving an official interview. The press corps hangs out there, waits for people to give official capacity interviews. She can't do that.
Now, if she wants to go in her personal capacity somewhere else without using her official title and she wants to endorse a racist or a pedophile or anyone else for any position anywhere, she has a First Amendment right to do that as a private citizen. But not using her official title, not on the White House lawn. That's a slam dunk violation of the Hatch Act and the presumptive penalty for Hatch Act violation is firing.
We would not have tolerated that in the Bush White House when I was there, if someone had endorsed a candidate in that capacity in that location.
HARLOW: Of course, if she were to be fired, that would have to come from the president. So, we'll see what he thinks. But the White House is responding tonight. Let me read it.
They say: Ms. Conway did not advocate for or against the election of a candidate and specifically declined to encourage Alabama voters to vote a certain way.
Kellyanne Conway went on Twitter and she wrote what @POTUS says below equals exactly what I said yesterday on "Fox & Friends."
So they're saying nothing to see here. Your counter argument is?
PAINTER: Well, that's a flat-out lie. We just heard her talking about Doug Jones. Doug Jones is a Democratic candidate for that Senate seat. And she is trashing on the opposition candidate. That is taking sides in a partisan election. That is a violation --
HARLOW: But, Richard, this isn't the first time. You'll remember back in February when she was on the White House lawn again and she was talking about Ivanka Trump and she said, quote, buy Ivanka's stuff. That's spurred a bipartisan letter from the leadership. Nothing happened. No disciplinary action.
You say strike two. So then what?
PAINTER: Well, it's unfortunate that we have repeat problems with a number of people in this administration including Kellyanne Conway. Now, that first violation was of a separate position, office of government ethics regulation. I think it was very serious. I might have fired her for that or recommended firing her for that. But that's a lot less serious than the Hatch Act violation.
The Hatch Act is a statute going back to 1939. It's critically important that official position not be used to interfere in important elections. That's a lot more important in our democracy than whether she's shilling for Ivanka Trump clothing on "Fox & Friends", or trying to run a Trump show out of the White House.
This is serious business.
[19:50:01] It's a very serious offense.
HARLOW: Richard Painter, thank you for being with us. Have a great Thanksgiving.
PAINTER: Thank you, Poppy.
HARLOW: OUTFRONT next, Puerto Ricans escaping their hurricane ravaged island, heading to Florida. Coming up, how this massive migration could change the political landscape not only in Florida but nationwide.
And Francis Ford Coppola offers Anthony Bourdain a meal he cannot refuse in ancient southern Italy.
BURNETT: Tonight, the president is preparing to celebrate Thanksgiving at Mar-a-Lago in Florida. Florida, a key swing state in any election, but one that has correctly picked a president in every election from 1996 on. But a surge of Puerto Rican evacuees fleeing the destruction of Hurricane Maria could have a dramatic impact politically on Florida.
Our Athena Jones is OUTFRONT.
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Linda Gonzalez (ph) says starting her life over in Florida is like being reborn as an orphan.
She was forced to flee Lares, Puerto Rico, after Hurricane Maria destroyed her home.
Gonzalez says she lost everything over night. She and her son joined a wave of evacuees arriving in Orlando three weeks ago.
Some 170,000 Puerto Ricans have landed in Florida since October 3rd, according to state officials, and while all of them may not put down roots here, many will. Some are comparing it to the 1980 Mariel boat lift from Cuba when 125,000 immigrants landed in South Florida reshaping state politics as a powerful voting bloc.
The tide of Puerto Ricans has already surpassed the boatlift, and shows no sign of letting up, and unlike Cubans, Puerto Ricans, the vast majority whom lean Democratic are already citizens. They can vote right away as long as they register.
Florida is a perennial swing state, Trump won here by just over 100,000 votes and Barack Obama won twice. Eight years after a flash finish and subsequent recount handed the state to George W. Bush in 2000.
[19:55:01] The historic influx of Puerto Ricans could ship the political calculus.
MICHAEL MCDONALD, POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA: That group can be pivotal in a swing state. And so, their impact and effect on statewide elections vote for governor, U.S. Senate and, of course, for president, could be very dramatic.
JONES: But political science professor Michael McDonald says white retirees from the Midwest and the Northwest, many of whom lean Republican, are also pouring into the state, likely keeping statewide elections close for now.
President Trump toured the devastation two weeks after the hurricane.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We spent a lot of punish on Puerto Rico and that's fine, we saved a lot of lives.
JONES: Gonzalez says the federal government should have done more after Maria and she's still hurt that the president said the people of Puerto Rico should do more to help themselves.
It hurts, we're human beings, she told me. He should not have spoken to us in that way.
A trained chef, Gonzalez plans to stay here in Orlando and rebuild her life. It's a sort of dream many of those arriving from the island share. As for 2020 and casting a ballot for Trump, I asked her, would you vote for him to remain in office.
(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
JONES: And she was quite definitive on that last point there.
Now, I met Linda Gonzalez at a nonprofit called Latino Leadership that's already helped some 5,000 Puerto Ricans setting here in the last few months. The executive director told me that many of the families she's met, especially those with young children are planning to stay. She also said her group has focused on voter registration efforts in the past and likely to do so again after they help these families meet their immediate needs -- Poppy.
HARLOW: It's fascinating development. Thank you for the reporting. We'll follow it. Have a great Thanksgiving.
All right. And finally this Sunday, an all new episode of "ANTHONY BOURDAIN: PARTS UNKNOWN", this time, Bourdain visits southern Italy and recovers the secrets of the region's unique culture.
Earlier, he sat down with Erin to talk about what make this part of Italy so special.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: So, Puglia, Basilicata, the southern and incredible part of Italy.
ANTHONY BOURDAIN, CNN HOST, "ANTHONY BOURDAIN: PARTS UNKNOWN": The heel of the boot. While last year, we had a really great time shooting with the director and actress, Asia Argento, who said, you have to go to this part of Italy. So I was like, anywhere else, different languages, different dialect, food's different, different mentality. You know, extraordinarily beautiful landscape and history.
And so, packing up with the expensive camera equipment, and the largest crew we've ever had, we went and did an amazing show.
BURNETT: And did it live up to your expectations?
BOURDAIN: It did indeed. We among other things, other than eating and drinking very well, and have many adventures. I had the privilege to sit down with Francis Ford Coppola, who has opened basically his ancestral hometown where his father and his family grew up. He returned triumphant to that small village and bought the manor house of his former -- his family's former fascist oppressors and turned it into a hotel and restaurant.
BURNETT: And you said you did get to spend some real time with him. Here's a little bit of your conversation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA, FILMMAKER: This is a dish, we call it cordani (ph), how do you call it?
(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
COPPOLA: This is like basically my father said --
BOURDAIN: Pig skin.
COPPOLA: -- this is a football.
BOURDAIN: Wait, you had this in your dinner table as a young man, as a kid?
COPPOLA: A little kid.
COPPOLA: I hated it. Of course. But now, I don't.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: You said you really had a chance to talk to him.
BURNETT: That he opened up, food wide.
BOURDAIN: He's always been classic, you look back at his interviews, and I've read them all, very reluctant to talk about his career. He talks about the sense of shame and unhappiness he felt after the success of "The Godfather". This is interesting to me because he seldom talks about that film. But, imagine, you know, his great success, it made him happy in a lot of ways.
BURNETT: Why did he feel shame?
BOURDAIN: He said it was a film no one even wanted, from the director nobody wanted, with stars nobody wanted playing the part. And suddenly, it was the biggest thing. I really kind of showed up looking to talk about food and wine and his hotel in the area.
But we quickly went off on a very long and fascinating tangent that informed and resonated throughout the rest of the show.
BURNETT: All right. Well, I can't wait to see it. And I know everyone watching can't wait to see it. So, thanks. Appreciate it.
BOURDAIN: Thank you.
HARLOW: That's what makes Anthony Bourdain so good. He gets those incredible stories. Do not miss the episode of "PARTS UNKNOWN", coming up Sunday night, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only right here.
Thank you so much for being with me tonight.
John Berman is in for Anderson Cooper. "AC360" starts right now.